Mercury(II) nitrate

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Mercury(II) nitrate
Mercury nitrate.png
IUPAC names
Mercury dinitrate
Mercury(II) nitrate
Other names
Mercuric nitrate
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.030.126 Edit this at Wikidata
EC Number
  • 233-152-3
RTECS number
  • OW8225000
UN number 1625
  • InChI=1S/Hg.2NO3/c;2*2-1(3)4/q+2;2*-1 ☒N
  • InChI=1/Hg.2NO3/c;2*2-1(3)4/q+2;2*-1
  • [N+](=O)([O-])[O-].[N+](=O)([O-])[O-].[Hg+2]
Molar mass 324.60 g/mol (anhydrous)
Appearance colorless crystals or white powder
Odor sharp
Density 4.3 g/cm3 (monohydrate)
Melting point 79 °C (174 °F; 352 K) (monohydrate)
Solubility soluble in nitric acid, acetone, ammonia
insoluble in alcohol
−74.0·10−6 cm3/mol
Safety data sheet ICSC 0980
Very toxic (T+)
Dangerous for the environment (N)
R-phrases (outdated) R26/27/28, R33, R50/53
S-phrases (outdated) (S1/2), S13, S28, S45, S60, S61
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
Flash point Non-flammable
Related compounds
Other anions
Mercury(II) sulfate
Mercury(II) chloride
Other cations
Zinc nitrate
Cadmium nitrate
Related compounds
Mercury(I) nitrate
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Mercury(II) nitrate is a toxic colorless or white soluble crystalline mercury(II) salt of nitric acid. It was used to treat fur to make felt in a process called 'carroting'. The phrase 'mad as a hatter' is associated with psychological illness brought on by excessive exposure to mercury(II) nitrate. The practice continued in the United States until it was banned in December 1941 by the United States Public Health Service. The ban freed mercury(II) nitrate to be used in the manufacture of detonators in the then ongoing war.[1]


Mercury(II) nitrate is made by reacting hot concentrated nitric acid with mercury metal, under these conditions, the nitric acid is an oxidizing agent. Dilute nitric acid would produce mercury(I) nitrate.


Mercuric nitrate is used in mercuration reactions. In particular, it is used in reactions involving ketones. One of the chemicals which it is most effective with is acetone. This reaction uses mercuric nitrate, mercuric oxide, and calcium sulfate to change acetone, which is CH3C(O)CH3, into CH3C(O)CH2Hg. Acetone is a compound for which most other methods of mercuration prove ineffective.[2] The mercuric nitrate compound works because it is a strong oxidizing agent.[3] In addition, when mercury is dissolved in nitric acid the acid form of mercuric nitrate is formed.[4] The acidic form is capable of inverting molecules of sucrose.[5]

Health information[edit]

Mercury nitrate tends to affect the body as Hg2+, which is considered a form of inorganic mercury. Forms of inorganic mercury can be found in various contexts including in skin lightening cream. If the inorganic mercury is ingested it can change the structure of important proteins within the body. If it gets into the soil it can then be absorbed and remain to be taken up by plants.[6] Those suffering from poisoning tend to experience vomiting and diarrhea as their earliest symptoms.[3]


Although mercuric nitrate is not flammable it can speed up flames since it acts as an oxidizer. In addition, it can form explosive compounds when combined with alcohols.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Not-So-Mad Hatter: Occupational Hazards of Mercury".
  2. ^ Morton, Avery A.; Penner, Hellmut P. (1951). "Mercuration of Ketones and Some Other Compounds with Mercuric Nitrate". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 73 (7): 3300–3304. doi:10.1021/ja01151a091.
  3. ^ a b "Mercuric Nitrate".
  4. ^ Blyth, Alexander Wynter; Blyth, Meredith Wynter (1903). Foods:Their Compostition and Analysis.
  5. ^ Cochran, C. B. (1907). "The Inversion of Sucrosse by Acid Mercuric Nitrate". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 29 (4): 555–556. doi:10.1021/ja01958a016.
  6. ^ "Elemental Mercury and Inorganic Mercury Compounds:Human Health Aspects" (PDF).
  7. ^ "Mercuric Nitrate".

External links[edit]